Transforming the Streets and Spaces: Public Realm Asset Audit

The EC Partnership recently commissioned Publica to produce an Asset Audit to bolster our knowledge of the public realm and private spaces in the footprint to establish a series of projects to deliver. We wanted to better understand how the public and private spaces work within the footprint, how people currently use the spaces across the area and what the potential is for access, quality and experience to be improved.

This Asset Audit is an important body of work which puts a laser focus on one of the most important issues: the role and quality of public (and private) spaces across the area. There is growing recognition that public realm can and should do more to support the growth and evolution of the area, arguably even more in the post COVID era.

Download the Reports below:

Businesses set out bold new vision to create a greener, more pedestrian friendly Square Mile as London gears up for post-COVID recovery

Tuesday 2 March 2021 

An influential business partnership has launched an ambitious blueprint for enhancing public spaces across the Eastern City Cluster area of the Square Mile. The EC Partnership is made up of the leading businesses and has been established to promote and enhance the local area, encompassing iconic towers including the Cheesegrater, Gherkin, Walkie Talkie and Lloyds of London, all set alongside a wealth of historic landmarks such as Leadenhall Market, Churches, Livery Halls and the Monument. The area is recognised internationally as the economic powerhouse of the UK.”

The newly published Public Realm Asset Audit and associated recommendations set out a clear plan for prioritising investment in public realm projects, and what role the private sector can play in delivery. The aspiration is to maximise the value of the area’s world class assets and ensure the area can continue to be a beacon for growth and vibrancy in the UK.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern City is set to see significant growth due to the ongoing development pipeline. While some working practices are likely to stay permanently changed in the post COVID world, there is growing confidence among businesses about the future and all indications suggest a recovery boom in the coming months as the vaccine roll-out continues to gather pace. Whilst this presents substantial opportunity for the area, it also poses significant challenges including issues such as traffic congestion, increased air pollution and the potential over-crowding of public realm.

Ensuring London can attract the world’s best talent, and in time, domestic and international leisure visitors and business travellers must be a top priority. The quality of the capital’s public spaces and enhancing the visitor experience as people move through the city will become more important than ever.

A series of recommendations have been made which broadly align with the City of London’s City Cluster Vision, with a focus on how the private sector can contribute to the area’s improvements.

The publications have been developed through dialogue with the City of London Corporation. The vision is subject to further consultation, permissions and funding but aims to provide a framework for future projects undertaken, some of which could be led by the private sector.

Launching the publications, Chair of the EC Partnership, Andrew Reynolds said:

We believe that public spaces play a vital role in strengthening our societies and should be designed to function with people at their very heart – as we face the all-important recovery this is more important than ever.

“We know our vision in ambitious but we think it’s achievable. With its unique role and mandate, the EC Partnership, which is on course to become one of the UK’s leading BIDs, is able to pull the right people together from across the public and private sectors to get these bold projects moving.”

Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation, Alastair Moss, said:

“We welcome and share the EC Partnership’s aspiration for an improved experience for all in the Square Mile as part of the pandemic recovery and beyond.

“It will be vital that workers and visitors feel safe and comfortable when they return to the City once Government guidelines allow them to do so – and the public realm will play a major role in achieving that.

“The City Corporation’s Transport Recovery Plan provides the space needed to maintain social distancing on City streets as well as providing outdoor seating and greening for all to enjoy. The newly published Public Realm Asset Audit runs side by side with our recovery initiative by exploring the role the private sector plays in further enhancing the visitor experience for all who live, work and visit the Square Mile.”

The recommendations are arranged under four themes:

  • Enhancing streetscapes and open spaces
  • Activating public realm
  • Increasing greenery
  • Maximising the potential of tall buildings.

 The recommendations include a visionary transformation scheme for the Eastcheap and Gracechurch Street junction, which is a significant waypoint on the pedestrian route into the cluster area from London Bridge. Currently poorly designed and difficult for pedestrians to navigate, the enhancements to the junction would aid the connection to the Monument on Fish Hill Street and significantly upgrade the setting of the characterful Eastcheap public toilets.

 It’s not only larger streetscape schemes that are looked at – there are also schemes proposed to enhance smaller areas of open space. One such scheme recommended in the report is at St Peter Upon Cornhill. This small open space offers an opportunity for improvement with its uninspiring greenery and low provision of seating. A considered planting scheme and addition of moveable furniture would create a more welcoming space in which to rest and dwell.